Worcester Park History
Contributors; Cyril Southerby (WAPC president 1993, club member for 60 years); Horace Shrub (WPFC 1940s); David Rymill(Local Historian); Reg Wilkes
1957 A record attendance of just under 700 people watched WPFC beat Banstead Athletic 3-2 in the Surrey Senior League
1960s (early) Peter Vickery (an architect) designed and supervised the building of a new clubhouse. Peter was a member of the cricket section and became a vice president.
1976 Cricket Colts started by Jon Andrews, a local school teacher and member of WPCC
1976 (circa) First pool table installed. Some members of the Executive Committee thought that pool would be a “nine day wonder” and it would be better to hire a table instead of buying. It was soon realised that income was being lost by hiring and so a table was then purchased.
1982 (circa) Football section installed pitch drainage system Whilst digging the trenches, old clay pipes from a previous drainage system were found. They had become clogged and broken. The then new pipes were made of plastic\ upvc and allowed movement.
1983 (circa) football veteran’s team formed.
Before the above mentioned drainage system was installed the football pitch became very boggy and football was played only on Saturdays. As the playing surface had quickly improved after installation a number of WPFC senior members (there were then four teams) wanted to continue playing for the club. The Executive Committee agreed with the football section that a veterans side be formed to play on Sundays.
2000 (circa) start of football junior section
2008/9 Bowls section disbanded due to dwindling numbers.
As far as can be ascertained, a cricket club known as Cheam Common Cricket Club was founded around 1909 by several residents of houses in Lindsay and Cheam Common Roads.
Behind these houses and stretching as far as the main London to Epsom road was farmland known as the Cheam Common.
The field immediately behind the houses on the right hand side of Lindsay Road were used for exercising horses housed in stables where the present day Barn Glass Works is situated.
The field referred to above was used by the Cheam Common Cricket Club. There was also a Cheam Common Football Club. The members of the football club playing in another field at the end of Lindsay Road. Both these fields together with three other fields belonged to the Blake Family who lived in Lindsay Road The stables referred to above were the centre of the farmland. There were always 3 or 4 cart horses kept in the stables and a variety of carets when not in use were situated in the stable yard.
These arrangements prevailed for many years until after the war in 1919 the clubs using the fields were approached by the Worcester Park Voluntary Company with a suggestion that all of the sporting activities of the area should amalgamate in one body known as the Worcester Park Athletic Club and that funds should be granted from the United Services Fund which was available at that time for this to be accomplished.
This proposal was agreed by the members of all clubs involved and the newly formed Worcester Park Athletic Club set about trying to find an alternative ground. Alas it is believed the owners of the fields wanted them to be used solely for farming purposes.
In 1921 the club managed to obtain a lease on it’s present ground, then known as Skinners Field in Green Lane where the club have resided to this very day.
It was not until 1924 that the fields were given up.
By the year 1925 the club was well established with flourishing cricket, football tennis and bowls sections.
The Worcester Park Harriers ran yearly athletic meetings on the newly acquired ground until 1929; the meetings were open to entrants from many well known athletic clubs in South London and Surrey.
The Harriers section appears to have become defunct by the year 1929 as no records could be found after the last meeting held in 1929.
In the year 1935 the club, together with Old Malden Church officials arranged a fete known as the Malden and Worcester Park fete and this was held annually in the August Barnk Holidday until 1939 and the outbreak of the second World War.
It is interesting to note that the fete programmes stated that all “soldiers, sailors and airmen of His Majesty’s forces, girl guides, sea scouts and boy scouts in uniform would be admitted free”
On obtaining the lease on “Skinners Field” in 1921 a cricket table was laid, and later tennis courts and bowling green provided and the football section played in the same position on the ground as they do today.
In 1942 the Executive Committee realised that the club could no longer function on members’ subscriptions along and it was decided to ask the members views on the provision of a bar. This was discussed at a Special General Meeting and it was agreed that the club should apply for a licence to sell intoxicating liquor. The license was duly granted and in late 1942 the bar was opened and manned by club members/
Unfortunately this decision did not meet with the approval of one of two longstanding members and they duly resigned. This was very distressing for the club at the time as they had been founder members of the cricket section at it’s inception.
In 1943 a further lease of the ground was obtained from the owners for a further 5 years. It is interesting to note that in this year 120 members were serving in the forces and it may be been this reason that the owners, being patriotic gave the Club the lease.
On August 1st 194 a baseball match was played between the Canadian and United states Armies (on this ground?) stationed in this Country.
When Cyril Southerby joined the cricket section as a wicketkeeper for the Sunday XI in 1934 the cricket and football pavilion was situated in the corner of the ground abutting Green Lane and Central Road.
The Tennis and Bowls sections had small changing huts adjoining their playing areas, there was no main pavilion.
Cyril could remember the groundsman’s sister climbing the railway embankment to brew tea on a gas stove in a signal box, long since demolished.
By the time the Second World War had started a lot of improvements had taken place, a pavilion had been erected on the site of the present building and the old pavilion placed alongside to provide changing rooms for the cricket and football elevens and when in 1942 the club started to sell intoxicating liquor a bar extension was build together with a kitchen.
It was all a bit primitive for it was not until 1948 that main drainage was installed and toilet facilities built.
During the war years the bowling green was extended to provide 6 rinks, an addition of 3 rinks and the tennis section had hard courts installed.
It was at this time that the local authorities on the instruction of the Government were ploughing up open spaces to provide allotments to implement the country’s food supplies and to reduce food imports.
It was feared that the Worcester Park Athletic Club would suffer this fate, but fortunately it did not happen. This may have been due to the fact that half of the ground was situated in the Borough of Malden & Coombe (now the Royal Borough of Kingston) and the other half in the Borough of Sutton and Cheam (now the London Borough of Sutton) and that neither Borough deemed the land suitably large enough for allotments.
Nevertheless the club did play its part in the war effort by playing matches against the army, Air Force, Fire Services and Civil Defence personnel and so keeping up, it is hoped their morale.
In 1045, after much hard work by the members of the Executive Committee, the owners of the ground agreed to sell the freehold to the club.
Members rallied around with loans, mostly interest free, even members’ relations lent money and there was great financial support given by local traders.
This was a time of great enthusiasm within the club and many members expressed the wish to revive the annual Fete which would benefit the club financially and at the same time assist in repaying loans.
So it was for many years and Annual Fete was held in June, and from the star it was an enormous success. It was a great day with nearly all members rallying round to run the stalls and side shows, provide and serve teas, bake home made cakes, make sandwiches etc.. A large marquee was hired and bingo sessions held afternoon and evening.
There was always some outside attractions provided such as displays by the fire Brigade, Army and other organisations. Children’s races were held and the baby show was most popular, perhaps many of you reading this may have been entered by your parents for these events.
Unfortunately, as with all things, enthusiasm waned after several years and with now new blood being injected it was with much regret that future fetes were abandoned. Many people in the Worcester Park and surrounding areas still remember the fete and even ask if they are to be started again.
During the last war, owing to many of the tennis players being in service, very little tennis was played, but by 1946 the section was flourishing again.
In 1950 an additional hard court had been provided for the tennis section; there had been a bowls tour of Dorset and the cricketers had started a cricket week in August.
At this time a new toilet block had been built providing facilities for both male and female members
Before 1959 the bowls section had been men only but nationally ladies were beginning to take an interest in the game so this year saw the introduction of ladies’ to the section. Through the years several male members of the section have been chosen to represent the Surrey County Bowling Association in Matches.
Owing to the war the football section suffered in membership, as did the tennis section, and struggled to survive but in 1945 the football section must have been stronger as arrangements were made for them to become a football nursery for Sutton United Football Club. How long this arrangement lasted for is not known.
It is known however that in 1946/7 the club played in the Surrey Senior League and remained so for many tears; several members were chosen to represent the league in inter league matches.
During the 1939-45 war the cricket section managed to field Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday elevens and many professional cricketers who had joined the forces came to the ground to play for visiting teams.
Just after the war two cricket members represented the cricket club conference in matches and a personal effort on my (Cyril Southerby’s) part resulted in a hat trick behind the stumps (two stumpings and a catch) a result I am particularly proud of.
The Tennis section during the war was only carried by a few elderly members, but by 1947 it was again functioning with members returning from the forces and there was an influx of new members.
Following the opening of the bar, interest from non players became apparent and provisions were made for the formation of an Honorary Members section. This section has, over the years, been instrumental in providing assistance to the club both financially and by voluntary labour.
It is safe to say that without honorary or social members it would have been difficult for the club to survive financially and this is still true today. At the present time, through their efforts in running functions they have helped to improve facilities in the club house, both for themselves and the playing members.
The last few years have seen a vast improvement in the ground conditions; the cricket section has had an all weather pitch laid and new practice nets; the bowls section built a new pavilion; has had an automatic watering system installed and has carried out many other improvements to the green and surrounding area; the tennis section has had the floodlighting installed and hard courts resurfaced. The floodlighting has also assisted the football section allowing them to have evening practice.
The football section built their own grandstand and the pitch has been drained but unfortunately this only proved successful for a couple of years; more work is required to counteract flooding.
Since the formation of the club in 1921 it has been fortunate to have been served by officials who have been both conscientious and far seeing in their outlook, and through their efforts the Club has been and remains to this day the sports centre of the Worcester Park Area and may it remain so for many years to come.
I hope that those members reading this will be proud of the Club they belong to as I am and to appreciate the effort made by past members and officials.
Cyril W Southerby
President of the Club.
Written approx 1993